Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I have to thank Tri-State Defender for its article and its contributions to the Memphis media throughout the years. However, I disagree with a majority of the opinions it expressed in the August 17 article. The italics below are cites from the article and my comments follow thereafter in regular text.

With only one exception- namely, long-time Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton- there was little in the background of the African American candidates to lend legitimacy to their quest for such an important office.

Your credibility in this article must be questioned, because your paper has a potential conflict. I do not see any cite in this article to let the readers know that your paper had previously endorsed Commissioner Bolton for the position.

Your paper obviously did not research the backgrounds of the candidates in this race if you feel that certain candidates were not legitimate. I may have disagreed with some of my opponents, but there were many qualified individuals in this race. Your chosen candidate's credentials were no better than anyone else in the race.

The top “also-ran vote getters” — Nikki Tinker and Joe Ford — received slightly more than 25 percent of the total vote. This was enough to win combined but not separately. They both knew that and worked their campaigns to insure they helped defeat all the other African American candidates. By siphoning off just enough votes to deter Julian Bolton the likely winner had these two not been in the race Shelby County is now without African American representation in congress.

I detect a certain bias toward a certain candidate because of your Bolton endorsement. It cannot reflect well upon those political staff members responsible for the endorsement selections, because the paper did not even put the top two vote getters in its final four.

Despite your assertions, Commissioner Bolton would not have been the likely winner under any scenario. In any political race, if you take the stronger candidates out of the race, then the weaker candidate remaining will be a "likely winner." In this primary if either Tinker, Stanton or myself dropped out of the race, then Bolton still would not have won.

But consider a scenario where Bolton dropped out of the race. His 8,053 votes, support and influence behind a stronger candidate would have likely produced a different result at the polls.

In addition, it appeared that Ford had no passionate interest in winning the election. His campaign efforts were minimal and he seemed to be relying solely on name recognition to attract votes.

That assertion is completely false and untrue. It disrespects all the hard work of the people who supported my campaign. I do not recall seeing any of your staff members when I was walking throughout the District, speaking at youth clubs and churches, meeting constituents, and working until 3am every day.

When you use words such as "appeared" and "seemed," then it "appears" that your paper is being vague and ambiguous on the issues. On what basis do you state I had no passionate interest in the campaign or that our campaign efforts were minimal? Also please show me why you believe I solely relied on name recognition in this race.

Name recognition helped us receive 9,334 votes, but it was not the only reason. If we had not worked as hard as we did, then we would not have even placed in the top 5.

Your chosen candidate did not work as hard as we did on this campaign. Your chosen candidate did not work harder than Ed Stanton. Your chosen candidate did not work harder than Ron Redwing. I could continue with a laundry list of candidates who worked harder than your chosen candidate, but you should get my point.

Towards the end of the campaign, Ford's uncle, Harold Sr., who contributed $2,100 to Julian Bolton's campaign, said, “Joe hasn't done anything to get votes but with all the confusion people are going to simply go with 'the brand name.”' As it turned out, more than 9,000 voters punched the “Ford name brand” on the ballot - 9,000 votes that insured no other African American candidate could win.

I'm not even going to comment on Harold, Sr's statement except to say I disagree with it. As recent elections have proven by the numbers, voters are not simply going with brand names. As for my 9,000 votes that supposedly insured the loss, what about Comm. Bolton's 8,053 votes that also insured the loss? I have never heard anyone say a 4th place finisher deserved to win an election.

That the voters were both confused and frustrated can be seen in the election return totals by precinct. For example, all the voters who cast their ballots in the Tennessee Senate, District 33 race live in the 9th Congressional District. This race pitted indicted incumbent Kathryn Bowers (who won) against three opponents. In that race, an average of 454 voters per precinct cast their ballot. By comparison, in the ninth district race, only an average of 360 voters per precinct cast ballots. This prompted one observer who spoke in anonymity to comment, “People would rather vote for someone who might be going to jail than for one of those turkeys who sold us out.”

Did you ever consider the fact that some voters did not like ANY of the candidates? Why did so few people and organizations officially ENDORSE someone for the campaign? I will give your paper credit for endorsing someone, because most people did not.

But none of the African-American candidates in this race (myself included) separated themselves from the other African-American candidates. Everyone blended into the pack. If any candidate had done so, then he/she would have emerged as the consensus candidate of the voters without the need for some secret cabal selection . No one did that, so everyone thought they had a legitimate chance of winning the race. Despite the best thoughts, in this race, the voters chose Sen. Cohen.

Now, back to Ford — why was he in the race? Could his presence in the race have been (as some have suggested) for the purpose of helping insure a Steve Cohen victory thus rendering him (Cohen) subject to being a “one-term congressman.” That is, a white congressman vulnerable to defeat by an African American in 2008.If this was the plan, it (although shameful) makes good political sense. It would have been much more difficult for a Ford to defeat a sitting African American congressman representing the 9th in 2008. Or perhaps Ford was trying to help the independent candidate (his cousin, Jake Ford)? Who knows.

That sounds really good - if you're talking about the plot in a fictional prime-time soap opera called Memphis Blues. There was only one plan in my campaign and that was to win the election. While there will likely be others in this political game who may utilize the results of my actions, I had no ulterior motives or grand plans for conquest when I entered this race.

Shamefully, what we just witnessed in the 9th Congressional District election was either an intentional or an oblivious disregard of the purpose of American representative government.

The purpose of American representative government is ensure that all people have a voice in the government. And when all people stated their choice, like it or not, more people wanted Sen. Cohen than any other candidate. Sen. Cohen could not have won this election without receiving a good number of African-American votes.

Joe Ford, Jr.
August 28, 2006


Robert Wennagel said...

I find it disconcerting that the Tri-State Defender has unwittingly fallen back on the idea that there can only be one HNIC, and all other African-Americans should merely fall in line behind him/her. Maybe the TSD should consider the idea that African-Americans can be as diverse in their political opinions and motivations as white politicians.

JSF said...

I agree. TSD's thought that all African-Americans should fall into line behind one candidate takes the choice and vote away from the people. We might as well live in a communist state where there is only one candidate on the ballot. No matter what one candidate would have been "selected," I can almost guarantee that there would have been some people upset.